Because of Easter

This year as Easter approaches one of my brothers is in the hospital fighting for his life (prayers appreciated). His battle reminds me of another Easter, many years ago, when my Grandad was on his journey home.

Grandad
Grandad

That Easter, so many years ago, I was a new Christian. About the same time I became a Christian, my Granddad got a sore throat that just wouldn’t go away. Eventually they diagnosed him – it was throat cancer. He’d been a smoker in his younger days, and even though he’d quit many years prior, the damage was done.

I remember thinking that I really didn’t know my Grandad very well at all and prayed for the opportunity to get to spend time with him before he died. As it turned out, my parents took my Grandad in to care for him and they asked if I could come by after work and help with his care. My prayer had been answered.

Coincidentally…. (if you believe anything is actually a coincidence), around this time the church I was attending co-hosted a healing service that was taking place at another church. My friends and I decided to go. As I was a new Christian, I didn’t have any idea what to expect or think.

We went in and took our seats and I ended up next to the aisle. The Pastor came out and started talking about what was going to happen during the service. He said, “I will call out illnesses that I believe God is telling me to pray over; if it relates to you come forward so we can pray for you.” He then said, “or if you know someone that fits the description, you may also come forward and we will pray for that person.”

As I sat there, I was holding a conversation with God in my head. I was thinking about my Grandad and his need. I said, “You know Lord I’m not going forward unless it’s really obvious that they are talking about Grandad.”

The Pastor started calling out illnesses and said, “There’s someone with an issue with his neck, like it’s swollen…” He said some more about it and I, again speaking in my head, only to God, said “No Lord, that’s not specific enough, he’s going to have to say Carl.” The Pastor hadn’t mentioned any names, but I wasn’t about to go forward unless I knew I was really supposed to.

There was a lady walking forward down the aisle near me and the Pastor told her to stop. He said to her, “Do you know a Carl?” She looked confused and said, “no.” He said, “Someone around you knows a Carl and he needs prayer. It’s Carl with a C not a K – I know a Carl with a K but it’s not him, it’s with a C. If you know someone named Carl and are sitting near her, come forward because he needs prayer.” I spoke to God, again in my head, and said “Okay God, now I believe he’s talking about Grandad.” And I went forward to get prayer for him.

The next day I was feeling very confused and kept thinking, “How am I going to tell my family about this.”

After work, I went over to my parent’s house. When I went inside I asked my stepmom ‘How’s Grandad?” She replied, “You won’t believe it, he wanted to go get his hair cut today. He hasn’t been out of bed in weeks and he wanted to go out and get a haircut, so I took him.”

I told her I believed it and said, “I have to tell you what happened last night” and proceeded to tell her. She told me that I needed to go tell him, and when I did so, he cried.

On my way home, a voice in my head very clearly said, “Tell Tami I’m okay now.” And I knew he was going to die, but I also knew he was okay, okay in a far deeper way than the physical sense.

As Easter approached that year, my Grandad’s body started giving out – it wasn’t from the cancer, that had been cured. It was because his body was exhausted from the cancer treatments. It was time for him to go home.

Again, God’s timing was perfect. I was on vacation from my job the week leading up to Easter when my Grandad was admitted to the hospital. We set up an around the clock watch to sit with him, my shift was late at night.

One night as I was sitting with him, I heard him stop breathing and panicked and called out “Grandad.” He took a deep sighing breath. When I heard that, I knew I should have let him go, but I was scared. I called the nurse in and she said he wouldn’t make it through the night. I called my stepmom who came right over. After talking with the nurse, she told me to go tell my Dad.

I drove to their home, praying – “God if I should be there when Grandad dies, let that happen, but if you know I can’t handle it, then let him die before I get back.” I was afraid, I had never watched anyone die before and wasn’t sure if I was ready or able to do so.

When I got back to the hospital in the middle of the night, there were no parking places, so I had to park farther away. Then the thought came to me that I should get my stepmom and myself some coffee since it was probably going to be a long night. As I was walking down the hall to the room coffees in hand, my stepmom was walking out of the door – Grandad had just died.

Easter… Easter and the death of a loved one…

Because of Easter…

  • Because of Easter…
  • Because of Jesus, His death, His crucifixion, His taking on the penalty for our sins…
  • Because death could not hold Him since He was without sin…
  • Because Jesus overcame death and rose on the third day…
  • Because of the Resurrection…
  • We can say,
  • “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 1Corinthians 15:55

My Grandad went home that night, no more pain and no more suffering all because of Easter. Not because of the bunnies and the eggs, but because of the truth behind the Holiday – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

My Grandad and brother Jamie
My Grandad with my brother Jamie.

Vampires, Priests, and the Cross

Several years ago, I read a book that to me, even though I wasn’t a Christian at the time, had a profound Christian message that has stuck vividly in my memory through the years. In the book, the author writes about an encounter between a priest and a vampire.  crossThe priest was holding up a cross, which was glowing, radiating power up the priest’s arm and he felt comforted knowing that while he held up the cross the vampire was cowered in front of him.  The vampire had a hostage though and was threatening to do harm to the hostage.  The vampire tells the priest that he will let this boy go if the priest will put the cross down and fight him ‘your religion against mine.’  The priest hesitantly agrees and the vampire lets the boy go.  Then the priest starts to think and he thinks that as long as he has the cross he is safe and now that the boy is safe, why should he put down the cross.  As he thinks this, the cross starts losing its glow, then the vampire walks up to him, takes the cross and breaks it in pieces.  The vampire then tells the priest that if he had put his cross down, he would have won the battle, and he went on to tell him that he forgot what his religion was about; the cross and the other symbols the priest held dear were just symbols and, without faith in the God behind them, they were meaningless.

This Easter, we need to rejoice in the fact that we serve a living and mighty God and not an idol or an empty symbol.  Sometimes when we are confronted with the evil, the horrors, the pains and sufferings of this world, it’s easy to forget that our God is in control.  It is easy to start trusting in things, in symbols, in status and in our actions to get us through.  We start putting our faith in what we can do (even the good we can do, like Bible study, prayer, etc.)

Are you so foolish?  Having begun by the Spirit are you now being perfected by the flesh? Gal. 3:3 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. Eph. 2:8&9

or in what we have (riches, success, accomplishments, reputation)

Though the fig tree should not blossom, and there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail, and the fields produce no food, thought the flock should be cut off from the fold, and there be no cattle in the stalls, Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation. Hab. 3:17&18

and forget that our religion is not about what we can do or what we have been blessed with but about a living and true God and what He has done and what He has accomplished for us.

Lord, Thou wilt establish peace for us, since Thou hast also performed for us all our work.  O Lord our God, other masters besides Thee have ruled us, but through Thee alone we confess Thy name. Isaiah 26: 12&13

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundations of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.  In love He predestined us to the adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us in all wisdom and insight.  Eph. 1:3-8

This Easter, we celebrate the victory of our God, a God who became flesh and blood to dwell among His flock.  One who died upon a cross to pay the penalty for our sins, to fulfill His covenant with us, and to set us free from the bonds of death.  The true and living God who has called us by name and has loved us first so that we might love Him.  This Easter, as we think of the cross, remember it is a symbol of hope, power and strength, not because of what it is, but because of what it represents to us who have Faith in the One who died on it.  So let us remember the cross, but let us worship the resurrected Savior and let us not forget that one day soon He is coming back to take us home. …and He shall dwell among them and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”  And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Rev. 21:3-5

Tami Munden

 

Lent

Lent is fast approaching. I’ve always liked the idea of seasons in the church, times of reflection to focus on different aspects of God. The idea of Lent is something I’ve always found interesting; I’ve even written a devotional for it. But this year, as I’ve been thinking about Lent, I’m having a hard time with aspects of it.

I love the symbology of the ashes that are used during Ash Wednesday services. Ashes remind us of several things:

Ashes remind us that we are created. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Gen. 2:7

Ashes remind us of our fallen nature and our need to repent. “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees Thee; Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:5-6

Ashes remind us of what Easter is all about. “For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” Heb. 9:13-14

Ashes remind us that Christ, through His death, burial, and resurrection, has set us free from the bondage of sin and has given us “beauty for ashes.”

It’s the other aspect of Lent that I’m having a hard time with – “Traditionally, Lent is a somber time of preparation, a time of self-denial…”

Lent is a time to prepare our hearts for Easter. Easter is about God seeking us out. Easter is a time of great joy, but… it is also a very somber time. The Garden of Gethsemane, the betrayal, the trial, the condemnation, the death on the cross, Jesus bearing the wrath of God for our sins, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? Mark 15:34, the burial, the tomb, the darkness, the despair… yes a very somber time.

Maybe that’s why we feel the need to be somber in preparation for Easter – maybe that’s why we feel we need to give up something for Lent? Maybe…

Maybe we want to feel good about ourselves, feel like we’ve done something to earn the forgiveness, the love, we’ve received? Maybe…

Maybe we’ve forgotten, maybe we don’t remember – maybe we think it’s up to us? Maybe…

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.  But God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.  For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.  And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. ~ Romans 5:6-11 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. ~ 1Peter 1:3

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6

“The good news is that Christ frees us from the need to obnoxiously focus on our goodness, our commitment, and our correctness. Religion has made us obsessive almost beyond endurance. Jesus invited us to a dance…and we’ve turned it into a march of soldiers, always checking to see if we’re doing it right and are in step and in line with the other soldiers. We know a dance would be more fun, but we believe we must go through hell to get to heaven, so we keep marching.” ~ Steve Brown

by Tami Munden